Heirloom Seeds, Inherited Treasures

Granny's handwritten recipe for homemade vegetable soup.  When I took this photo, I could actually smell the soup cooking . . .

Granny’s handwritten recipe for homemade vegetable soup. When I took this photo, I could actually smell the soup cooking . . .

Two weeks ago, I went to sleep thinking about my grandmother, Lora Bolick Minton.  Earlier that evening, I had explored the wonderful notebook of collected recipes Granny gave me before she died, in 1986.  Many of the recipes, some in her handwriting, listed fresh tomatoes as an ingredient.  Why, I wondered, when I have so many seeds saved by Granny, were there no tomatoes?  One of my earliest memories is seeing a huge galvanized tub full of Granny’s colorful tomatoes, bobbing in the water she used to wash them before taking them into her kitchen.

Around 3:00 a.m., I woke from a deep sleep with a thought in my mind:  Granny’s tomato seeds are in the old dresser.  Fully awake, I thought about the old dresser, an oak piece that, while solid, has a scarred original finish, missing drawer pulls and occupies a space in my garage.  The dresser belonged to my great-grandmother and, at Granny’s home, was stuck in a back bedroom, where it held a variety of items.  When Granny died, Richard and I moved the dresser to our house, which was under construction.  We placed it in our garage, with good intentions to restore and use it in our home.  Life became busy; with two kids to raise, jobs to do and plenty of home projects, we just never got around to doing anything with the dresser.  For twenty-seven years, the dresser has occupied a corner in our garage and still holds many of the items Granny placed in it.

As I opened the bottom drawer, my heart sank.  The drawer was completely empty.  I must have cleaned it at some point.  Working from the bottom up, I slid the second drawer out.  Stacks of greeting cards, some linens adorned with Granny’s handiwork and a couple of chipped plates were in this one.  When I opened one of the top drawers, I almost cried when I saw small glass and plastic jars and medicine bottles full of Granny’s saved seeds.  In a small jar that once held supermarket dried basil, I found tomato seeds.  Are they the same variety?  Several kinds?  Far too old to germinate?  Did I “kill” them by leaving them in a garage where seasonal temperatures can be extreme?  Why were they even still in my home?  Surely, I would have thrown them away, if I had cleaned the dresser years ago.  While sleeping, did Granny whisper to me and direct me to find these treasures?

Many questions surround these seeds.  I invite you to journey with me as I attempt to find some answers.  There are 304 tomato seeds in the container.  According to the lunar calendar, February 21st and 22nd will be good days to start seeds and I plan to do everything in my power to encourage these tiny treasures to germinate.  Since the “signs” for February 27th and 28th are in Libra, I also plan to plant seeds those days.  Granny and I share a birthday and Libra is our Astrological birth sign.  It can’t hurt, right?

Three hundred and four tiny possibilities to continue the life cycle of these heirloom tomatoes.

Three hundred and four tiny possibilities to continue the life cycle of these heirloom tomatoes.